The planned participation of the Israeli ambassador to Pretoria in a conference on the water crisis in South Africa was not the reason for the cancellation of the conference, as previously reported, the organizer of the conference said Thursday.
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Hoosain Karjieker, CEO of the Mail & Guardian newspaper that was cited as the organizer of the conference, told Ant Katz of the South Africa Jewish Report that the conference had never been approved in the first place due to lack of sponsorship.
“This was conflated around the issue of the ambassador,” which was neither an issue nor the reason, Karjieker was quoted by the Report as saying.
It added that he "was emphatic that the cancellation was in no way due to the planned attendance of Ambassador [Arthur] Lenk, nor had the M&G ever given consideration to not include the Israeli Ambassador in any future events."
A report that the conference had been canceled due to the planned participation of the Israeli ambassador was published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and reprinted by many newspapers, including Haaretz.
The source of the article was apparently a February 15 press release by the South African branch of the international Boycott Israel movement, BDS South Africa, which conflated the cancellation of the conference and the planed participation of the ambassador, thus creating the impression that the two were related.
In fact, Karjieker told the Jewish Report, the conference was never even organized, due to lack of sponsorship, though it did "slip through the cracks" and appear on a list of planned conferences.
"The Embassy of Israel to South Africa is distressed that once again the lies of the radical BDS hate movement have hurt the people of South Africa," the embassy wrote in a letter to South African newspaper editors.
"This time, they falsely claim that the Mail & Guardian group felt compelled to cancel a symposium on water management due to the involvement of the Israeli Ambassador.
"While the Mail & Guardian have confirmed, in writing, that this is not the case, the actions of the BDS hate activists reveals a total disregard for the interests and needs of South Africa. For BDS, hatred is far more important than helping South African citizens."